Walt Whitman (1819–1892) was an American poet and writer who first published his landmark collection of free-verse poems, Leaves of Grass, in 1885. Much of Whitman’s work focused on the self, with emphasis on the body and its importance in relationship to the soul, and on democracy and brotherhood. Leaves of Grass met with major criticism over its frank references to the body and human sexuality, and some editions of the book were even banned for their controversial content. During his lifetime, Whitman was better known and more respected in Europe than in America, though he would eventually be considered one of the greatest and most influential poets in American history.

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